This Friday I am happy to present to you the first story of faith from a Dartmouth student. I will keep her anonymous for now but hope to follow up with an interview at some point. This is her story:
I was born and raised in the LDS (or more commonly known as Mormon) church. However, I always knew my family was not a traditional or orthodox LDS family. I liked church, but I never felt convinced or converted.
I think my first truly spiritual experience came when I was a sophomore in high school. Since 8th grade I had been struggling with an eating disorder, and it got serious enough for me to be sent to an in-patient facility. As I battled my illness I felt my first inkling of the reality of the Atonement and how it could be applied in my life. In the hospital I said my first heartfelt prayer. That was the beginning of a long, spiritual journey into recovery.
During my junior year of high school my parents stopped going to church. This was hard for me. After trying to go by myself, I stopped going to church too.
When I got to Dartmouth I decided to investigate Mormonism along with other religions, and decide what I really believed. After lots of prayer, conversation, and careful thought I felt strongly that LDS church was where God wanted me to be.
Dartmouth has not been easy for me. After almost every term I have thought very seriously about transferring. During my sophomore and junior years, I dealt with my stress, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness by reverting to disordered eating and exercise. Throughout my isolation and despair, I forgot about the power of the Atonement. I let my worries consume me to the point that I wasn’t open to God’s love. Because I felt so distant from God, I also let all my questions and doubts about Mormonism and my parents’ objections trouble me again. I kept going to church, but I didn’t feel the same degree of surety or comfort the Gospel had once brought me. I tried lots of things to overcome my disordered eating habits and depression. I went back to a psychiatrist, therapist, and nutritionist. I started taking anti-depressants. Nothing really worked.
The one thing that did work was seeking healing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When I was finally ready to ask God for help He welcomed me with open arms, and I knew he had been patiently waiting for me all along. It was only through His help that I was able to slowly but surely turn my life around. Thinking back to where I was a year ago, I am astounded by how far I’ve come. I know I couldn’t have done it if God hadn’t led me by the hand the entire way.
Although this experience is a huge part of my faith, it is not the sole reason I believe that the LDS church is true. I have thought carefully about my membership specifically in the LDS church, and the implications of the claims the LDS church makes. I have had lots of questions and I’ve reasoned through them with God. My long list of doubts, concerns, and legitimate reasons not to believe just falls to pieces in the face of the multiple powerful spiritual experiences I have had and simply can’t deny. Although I don’t have all the answers, I now can say what I couldn’t before: I’m convinced of the truth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I am indescribably grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. At times the Gospel has brought me quiet peace and clarity, and at other times it has filled me with joy so pure and real I felt like I couldn’t hold it all and understood what David meant when he said “My cup runneth over.” I’m so grateful for the grace that makes it possible for me to feel God’s love and mercy while I am so imperfect. Although I fail more than I succeed and destroy more than I build, God abides with me if I just keep trying. He has encircled me about in the arms of His love, and poured out joy far exceeding my pain. In the words of Isaiah, His gospel has given me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
I am so grateful that Dartmouth could be a place where I could take this spiritual journey. I wanted to speak today to say thank you to this community full of amazing, loving, thoughtful people who inspire me to be better. I am thankful that Dartmouth has challenged, strengthened, and loved me. I am grateful to be a daughter of Dartmouth because Dartmouth helped me come to know the beautiful reality of being a daughter of God.